A spate of kidnappings in Lagos schools recently has left some parents confused - scared if their wards would be next. Barely three months ago, four secondary school students were abducted from their school premises when gunmen attacked the school. The Principal of the school, Lagos State Model College, was also kidnapped. Prior to that time, on February 29th precisely, three students of Babington Macauley Junior School were abducted; though later rescued, one can only imagine the trauma their parents had passed through.
No parent ever wants to be in the situation of negotiating how much to pay kidnappers in exchange for his child's life. But such a parent is more fortunate compared to those who never get that opportunity to negotiate. When kidnappers are not in for the money, that's usually the endgame - some parents either never hear from their child again or later find his body, dead. Sadly, nowadays, this is not just something to be read in the novels but in the newspaper; it's the grim reality plaguing all of us today.
What are a few basic things you can do to ensure your child's safety? Let's discuss some.
Avoid Showy Display of Wealth
This is perhaps the most single, innocently dangerous thing many parents do. The innocuous gesture of getting your child the latest device or wears might just be what attracts the monsters. Child abductors look out for such pointers to know which child's parents have enough money to go round. Are you aware that these people are up to date on trends in fashion, technology, etc? Yes, be mindful of the impression you give on the outside. This doesn't mean you should clad your children in rags though, rather, modesty in everything is the course of wisdom. In an article on safety, Awake!(Feb, 2015) says that "in some lands, the wealthy, including tourists who look affluent, have become targets of thieves and kidnappers seeking a ransom". The article then gives this timely advice: "If you live in an area known for crime and violence... Do not attract attention to yourself by appearing to be affluent. Think carefully about what you wear and carry in public..." If kidnappers see your kids looking affluent, they don't need to imagine how wealthy you are, they know.
Be Security Conscious
This begins with sorting out schools to enroll your child. In one of the aforementioned incidents of kidnapping, a Nigerian daily, The Nation, reported that the perpetrators gained access into the school premises through "the hole under the gate by the boys' hostel". Such lackadaisical demeanour to potential security breach is common among schools which may have good names. As a parent, be involved in the search for good schools. Have a trusted agent who knows the environment well. Edusko provides just such information and services to parents in Nigeria and abroad.
Also, being security conscious includes watching out for potential threats. Is there anyone who would want to hurt or get back at you for any reason? One of the causes of Kidnapping is Revenge. Yes, someone wanting to get back at you for financial or personal reasons may resort to it. I had a friend whose father was kidnapped for a business transaction that didn't go well. Parents, do well to avoid anything you know can put your child's safety in jeopardy. If need be, you should get the services of professional security men to guard your ward. This security measure is taken in extreme cases of threat.
Teach your Child Safety Measures
It may be easy to look down on your child's ability to protect himself. But don't underestimate these chaps, they're smarter than you think you know. Not all child abduction occurs at gunpoint, abductors are usually covert when it comes to kids. Allison Gamble, a psychologist who treats kidnap victims, advises that "In order to help defeat kidnappers and abduction attempts, it is imperative for parents... to continue to educate them (children) about avoiding dangerous situations".
This education can include things like having a code without which no one can pick the kids from school, teaching them to scream if they sense such danger in public places, not going anywhere during or after school without informing you first, etc.
Further, teach your child emergency numbers they can call in times of need. It could be the Police or any other law enforcement agency. As a thumb rule, your children should know your phone numbers by heart, let them know it once they're old enough to understand numbers.
Watch your Close Circle
In her paper on kidnapping, Ngozi Nwankwo states a fact: "Kidnapping takes place anytime and anywhere, in the churches, on the streets, in the hospitals and even at home". It's easier for a trusted fellow to give you away to kidnappers, some cases of abduction have revealed that there are usually insiders working with the hoodlums - that's how they usually get the exact information upon which they act. The truth is that it's not all close friends or relatives that want to kidnap or mastermind the kidnapping of your child, but it's imperative you keep an eagle eye. Eradicate any source of threat before it gets out of hand.
Regulate Social Media Usage
A lot of stalkers today are using the Internet to catch young ones. Social media makes it all the more dangerous. It's possible for kidnappers to find out vital details about your family through social media. All they need do is pretend to be youngsters like your kid; they use pictures of pretty girls or handsome boys as profile picture to entice young victims and fix dates to hook up with the unsuspecting prey. They lure your child to themselves. To combat this evil technique, The Watchtower, in a white-board animation titled 'Be Social-Network Smart', gives the following advice:
- Don't post anything you wouldn't want to see in the TV, that includes personal information: phone number, address, school, etc. It's called the Front-page rule.
- Never tell people when you're not home or when you're going on vacation.
- When it comes to friends, you need to be picky because a lot of online friends hide who they really are. Thus, the safest friends online, are ones you already know offline.
If you can spend time helping your kids to understand these, then you'd have prepared them to spot out online predators and avoid them. Teach them that the real life is that outside social media, and that it's not all rosy. When you help your children understand that people do really bad things, you're helping them develop good prognoses of danger.
In conclusion, kidnapping has become a menace in the Nigerian society. One report has it that "In the data on the kidnapping incidence released by Riskmap Report in 2014 subtitled “Global Kidnapping hot-spots”, Nigeria is seen as the 5th among the countries that have experienced high kidnapping incident in that year". While everyone is at risk of this atrocious act, the above-mentioned safety tips should come in handy to reduce the chances of our wards falling victims.
Content Executive @EduskoAfrica